BlackBerry users on the go will soon be able to employ the smartphones to watch whatever their families or roommates may be viewing on TV sets at home thanks to Sling Media‘s SlingPlayer Mobile software.
They’ll also have control over those TVs so they can turn sets on if nobody’s home or, say, switch the channel remotely from American Idol to…well, anything’s better than American Idol.
Sling Media plans to show off the new software on Research In Motion (RIM) BlackBerry Pearl 8120 devices at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Vegas. (The Pearl 8120 is not currently available in the United States, according to RIM’s website, but rumors suggest T-Mobile will offer the device in February.) The company expects the application, which has been available on various Windows Mobile devices since April 2006, to be released to the public in the first half of this year. Some devices that run on the Palm and Symbian operating systems also already support the software, including the 700p, 755p and 680 Treos and Nokia’s N95, N75 and E65 handhelds.
I asked Brian Jaquet, Sling Media’s director of public relations, whether or not additional BlackBerrys would support the software upon its release, but he was tight lipped. Jaquet would only say that the service works best with 3G devices, or devices with Wi-Fi, which the 8120 has. “EDGE definitely works, but it is not ideal,” he wrote in an e-mail.
The software only costs $29.99—a free 30-day trial is also available–and it doesn’t require monthly service fees or other charges, but BlackBerry users who want in on the fun need to purchase or already own a separate SlingBox unit. SlingBox lets users view and control their home TVs, from anywhere there’s an Internet-connected PC, Mac or compatible smartphone or PDA. There are three versions of SlingBox available, and they range from $129.99 to $299.99 on BestBuy.com.
Mobile workers could use SlingPlayer Mobile to watch TV shows and kill time in airport lounges or during transit—if, of course, IT allows for third-party applications to be installed on corporate BlackBerrys or you use your own device. I’ve got to imagine using the service takes a serious toll on battery life, though, so a nearby electrical outlet would likely be valuable in those situations.
I don’t have a SlingBox but I’ve heard good things about the product from folks who do. I’m not sure about the whole mobile TV thing though. I’ve had some experience watching television and films on handhelds and iPods, and I’ve never been thrilled with the results, especially with films or shows meant to be viewed on a wide screen display—and in my opinion, most them of are.
Do any of you use SlingBoxes? I’d love to hear your general impressions? Is the quality of content consistent and equal to what you’d see at home?
I’m particularly interested in hearing from folks who use or have tried the SlingPlayer Mobile software on phones. Like I mentioned above, the application only costs $29.99, so even if you don’t use it that often, you’re probably getting your money’s worth. And during multi-hour layovers or train rides, a tiny TV display that you control is infinitely better than a big one you can’t—or no TV at all.